If you’ve ever lived somewhere for an extended period of time, there’s likely some place that everyone has been to but yet you never have. Maybe it’s the top of the Space Needle in Seattle, the Empire State Building in New York City, or the Grand Canyon in Arizona. It’s been there a while, you’ve been there a while, yet you’ve simply never found a reason to go.
Such is the case for the AVO brand and the lancero vitola. The brand made its global debut in 1988, but it has never released a cigar in a lancero vitola prior to this year’s limited edition release of the AVO Heritage Lancero.
Why, you ask? That remains a mystery, as the company has not issued an official explanation, and an email seeking some kind of explanation has gone unanswered.
It’s been an interesting year for both AVO and Avo Uvezian, as there has been abundant amounts of chatter that the former would be getting a significant makeover, and while there was thoughts it could have been this year, instead it will happen in 2015. The latter was notably absent from the 2014 IPCPR Convention & Trade Show, though he did make an appearance at the Davidoff Golden Band Awards dinner via a pre-recorded video message that received a standing ovation, and the piano was at its usual place in the Davidoff booth, a reminder of Uvezian’s absence.
At the industry’s annual gathering, a number of new cigars were added to the AVO portfolio, including the Classic in a 6 x 60 vitola, the 6 x 54 AVO XO Toro, and this cigar, the AVO Heritage Lancero. The line has been busy throughout the year, with the AVO 88 limited edition coming out in March, and September seeing the release of the AVO Greatest Hits Sampler, a set that contains 14 previously released limited editions.
Since the Heritage line debuted at the 2010 IPCPR Convention & Trade Show, where it was billed as the strongest AVO blend released to that point, it has become a staple in numerous humidors. It was released in four sizes—Churchill, Robusto, Toro and Short Robusto—while a Short Torpedo was added in 2011 and a Short Corona and the 6 x 60 Special Toro joined the line in 2012. Beyond its reputation for strength, it also has a well-earned reputation for value, as it it’s the lowest-priced line in the AVO portfolio, with every size under $10. It uses the same wrapper as what was used on the AVO 2009 LE Compañero along with a blend of five filler tobaccos and a Dominican binder.
- Cigar Reviewed: AVO Heritage Lancero
- Country of Origin: Dominican Republic
- Factory: O.K. Cigars
- Wrapper: Ecuadorian Sun Grown
- Binder: Dominican Republic Vicente
- Filler: Dominican Republic Ligero & Seco, Peruvian Seco
- Size: 7 1/4 Inches
- Ring Gauge: 40
- Vitola: Lancero
- MSRP: $8 (Boxes of 20, $160)
- Release Date: Sept. 3, 2014
- Number of Cigars Released: 2,500 Boxes of 20 Cigars (50,000 Total Cigars)
- Number of Cigars Smoked for Review: 3
Given the ubiquity of the AVO Heritage line in my area, as well as the standard lancero vitola of the cigar, I’m tempted to say the cigar looks familiar, though of course the brand and vitola have never met prior to this release. The band matches well with the the veiny wrapper’s earthy shade of brown, a medium hue that doesn’t immediately draw comparisons to some other object of the same tone, yet the band seems to extract the base colors of the wrapper onto it, some cream, gold, black and a faded brick color. The roll looks clean and even, with a tidy cap on top and no visual distractions, but the number of winding veins provide plenty to look at. There’s a bit of give to the lancero, particularly in the half closest to the foot, while the upper half feels more well-packed. The aroma coming off the foot has an almost cool liquid aspect to it, making me think of some sort of iced tea, but there are also wood and raw almond undertones. The cold draw is well-calibrated, showing more tea notes as well as a pinch of black pepper and touches of a sweet syrup.
There’s a lot happening in the first puffs of the AVO Heritage Lancero, with the tea notes and pepper coming together to introduce themselves to the taste buds and olfactories quickly and intensely. A woody bite is particularly noticeable in two of the samples, a sensation that goes right after the tip of the tongue. There’s an aromatic sweetness to the tea notes that starts to jump out, while base notes of pepper make sure not to get overshadowed and create an interesting duality of highs and lows. I’m surprised by how mild an early retrohale is, almost lacking in pepper and overall character, offering just some faint pear and paper notes, though in one cigar it comes across as bubble gum. Not surprisingly, the bright white ash doesn’t last terribly long and falls off with the typical lancero whim. While the flavor has settled down a bit, retrohales quickly gain a peppery character and are much more assertive, while the palate also gets a substantial amount of clean black pepper.
The assertiveness of the retrohales has backed down in the early goings of the second third, while the palate returns to a sharper version of the tea notes, minus the pepper and replaced by a slightly metallic edge, though it skews more toward minerals in one cigar, a hallmark taste of Dominican tobaccos. The flavor stays on the lighter side of medium approaching the midpoint, more in the character of the notes than in strength however, as pepper still plays a role but the flavors skew towards apple and pear with a floral bouquet that at times is almost reminiscent of champagne. By the time the burn line gets to the point where the final third is almost upon me, the flavor has become a bit darker and sharper, with the touch of a metallic note still prevalent but now wood and coffee coming into the mix in place of the fruit and floral notes. The burn quality is still solid, and while the ash doesn’t hold on terribly strong, fortunately it isn’t flaky, while the burn line is sharp and even.
The final third of the AVO Heritage Lancero is marked by a distinct increase in the amount of pepper picked up in the nose, and not just on retrohales as the smoke coming off the cigar is much denser and stronger. It also retains a bit of the mineral component, a distinctive addition to the still evening air. While the cigar has been smooth and balanced the entire way, the final third feels even a bit more dialed in, offering a near-perfect amount of the coffee and wood notes with a clean finish that encourages smoking it as far down as possible.
- As with nearly all lanceros, there is a certain finesse required to maintain the balance needed to keep the AVO Heritage Lancero from getting too hot but also from going out.
- The lancero debate has been had for some time now, regarding whether or not they are making a comeback or if this or that year will finally be the year of the lancero. While the vitola isn’t on the verge of extinction, and probably not even in a state of being an endangered vitola, it’s time we stop asking if lanceros are back.
- The rebranding of the AVO line will be one of the big headlines of 2015, especially since Oettinger Davidoff set the bar high with its rebranding of Camacho in 2013.
- That said, Camacho doesn’t have the public face—at least anymore—that AVO does. How that plays out in 2015 will be interesting to watch, as while we all know that while the cigars are the crux of any brand, it’s the events and marketing that brings those cigars to life.
- Final smoking time was one hours and 40 minutes on average.
- The cigars for this review were provided by Emerson’s Cigars.
- Davidoff of Geneva USA advertises with halfwheel.
- Site sponsor Atlantic Cigar has the AVO Heritage Lancero in stock.
While the call for smaller ring gauges is one frequently bellowed on this site, it's been shown that smaller is not always better. But that's simply not the case here, as the lancero vitola helps the AVO Heritage blend shine from nearly start to finish. While billed as the strongest cigar bearing an AVO band, this isn't a strong cigar, but rather is balanced and aromatic with pepper providing some kick and helping to push the cigar forward. After three of these, and looking back at just how affordable they are, the only thing that the AVO Heritage Lancero left me wondering was why it hadn't been made sooner.